The Wall of Faces

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HAROLD JOSEPH ALWAN


is honored on Panel 15E, Line 103 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Leave a Remembrance

REMEMBRANCES

  • MIA bracelet

    Posted on 11/10/17 - by Megan Smith i_spa_u_2008@hotmail.com
    When I was 12 years old, I was traveling from Fremont, NH to Orlando, FL with a group of boy scouts. I can't recall much of the stop but I remember purchasing a bracelet that day. To this day, 22 years later, I still wear this he bracelet of Lt. Col. Harold J. Alwan. I pray for his family and thank him for his service, whispers in the wind, as often as I think of him. You will never be forgotten, sir.
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  • GONE BUT NEVER FIRGOTTEN

    Posted on 10/5/17 - by Steve Snyder daddyboy6100@yahoo.com
    I visited “THE WALL” in 1995 and was in awe of the reverence and beauty of the memorial. I was moved to select a bracelet bearing the name of a US Service member missing in action in Vietnam. The name I chose was that of LT. COL. Harold J. Alwan USMC. I have proudly worn this bracelet, learned of the events surrounding Lt. Col. Alwan’s disappearance and sacrifice and had many conversations with random people about my bracelet and why I wear it. I continue to wear the bracelet bearing Lt. Col. Alwan’s name and hope to someday, if he is ever returned home, to be able to send my bracelet to his family to let them know their loved one is, has been and will continue to be remembered with honor and gratitude.
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  • LTC Harold J Alwan

    Posted on 8/29/17 - by Kathyk0317@yahoo.com
    Mr. Smith, I have emailed, I am a niece of Harold Allan, I pray you see this post . Thank you
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  • Major Alwan

    Posted on 5/28/17 - by Darrel Smith (Marine and Commercial Pilot) darnglen@aol
    Major Alwan
    Vietnam
    1967

    I do not remember having any personal contact with Major Alwan. We were both fairly new in the squadron and our collateral duties were not associated. He was a maintenance specialist and I was working as an intellegence briefing officer. All Marine pilots have jobs other than flying.

    In March of 2014 Glenda and I were in Gold Canyon, Arizona when we first heard the news of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. That commercial flight had suddenly, inexplicably, been lost to all radio and radar contact. Every effort was made to track and locate this aircraft but the crash site was never located and we may never know what really happened.

    The loss of this aircraft caused me to reflect upon an unusual flying assignment during my tour of duty in Southeast Asia in1967. I was serving as a Marine Attack Pilot at Chu Lai, Vietnam and was deeply involved in flying attack missions against the Viet Cong who were trying to overrun South Vietnam.

    Helicopters were constantly in the air on supply and troop movement flights. The pilots, when flying into dangerous areas, often requested attack aircraft as escorts. They felt that the show of an aggressive presence caused the enemy to be a bit more selective as to what aircraft they fired upon. In other words, the helicopter pilots felt a little safer.

    This was February 1967 and the war was in full swing. We were flying around the clock and our maintenance staff made every effort to keep our aircraft in flying condition. Repairs had been made on one of the squadron aircraft but a test flight was required before it could be released for normally scheduled combat missions. Since Major Alwan was qualified both as a Marine attack and maintenance test pilot, a plan was made to have him fly a helo escort mission and also complete the required test flight.

    On this flight something went terribly wrong! He and his aircraft simply disappeared. There had been no indication of a problem and no distress calls had been heard. The sad news spread quickly through the base at Chu Lai but combat operations continued without interruption.

    The squadron operations officer summonsed me to his office and informed me that a search had been planned to look for the Major or his aircraft. The “experts”, after studying the wind, ocean currents, and possible crash location, decided to launch an aircraft on this mission. Somehow, I had been chosen to fly this questionable flight.

    No attack pilot, that I knew of, had received any training relating to this type of search. My briefing was very vague; something like, “Just go out there, descend to just above the water, and look for anything unusual.” I was to climb to altitude, proceed out over the South China Sea, while maintaining a specific course until 100 miles from the airfield. At this point a descent to just above the water was to be started..

    The range of the radio and navigational equipment on my aircraft was just over 100 miles under normal conditions. As I descended both were lost due to the curvature of the earth and my low altitude. I can report that flying a single seat, single engine aircraft at low altitude 100 miles out to sea is very intimidating. Most people would find it difficult to comprehend the immensity of an ocean. The water was a deep blue color and completely void of any sign of human existence.

    I descended as instructed and flew somewhat of a square pattern. I saw absolutely nothing! Even though uncomfortable, I made every effort to find some hint of Major Alwan or his aircraft. I remember thinking what a shame it would be if he happened to be nearby in a rubber raft and I flew right over him without making visual contact.

    This “search’ was continued until I reached bingo (minimum fuel remaining to safely return to base) fuel, at which time I advanced the thrust lever, started a climb and turned toward my home base. As I climbed through about 10 or 12 thousand feet I heard voices over my radio. I was surprised at the relief I felt.

    My debriefing consisted of a squadron officer asking if I saw anything. My only comment had to be, “I saw absolutely nothing.” Somehow, that flight has caused me to form a certain bond with Major Alwan.

    I will always wonder what actually happened to the him. The war continued even though his family grieved. The war was what it was, most pilots soon put this loss into the back of their minds. We were totally engaged in the effort to put bombs on target.

    My next combat mission was scheduled for that night. I flew it!
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  • Darrel F Smith (Marine and Commercial pilot)

    Posted on 1/30/17 - by Darrel F Smith darnglen@aol.com
    After all these years I feel a bond with Major Alwan. I was a young pilot and flew a search mission. I would like to share the story of that flight with the family.
    darnglen@aol.com
    MORE
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The Wall of Faces

Brought to you by the organization that built The Wall, the Vietnam Veterans Virtual Memorial Wall is dedicated to honoring, remembering and sharing the legacies of all those who died in the Vietnam War. Here you can go beyond the names on The Wall to see the faces, share the stories and read the remembrances posted by friends, neighbors, classmates and family members.

All of these photos will be showcased in The Education Center at The Wall on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. To learn more about the effort to collect these photos and ensure their faces will never be forgotten, visit www.buildthecenter.org.